Students participating in this unit are 11th graders enrolled in a mixed regular and honors English 3 course at STEM magnet school. The overall focus of the curriculum is American Literature, and it has a humanities element in that the texts are loosely connected to the 11th grade Social Studies curriculum.
The “Discovering Yourself in the Voices of Others” unit will take place in the fourth quarter of the year and it will consume the entire quarter. As the pacing of the course works alongside a historical study of America, texts will move from colonial to contemporary. For this unit to work to its fullest potential, texts should be as contemporary as possible. I am asking students to connect to voices and identities very different from their own, so it would help greatly to have some other common ground to work from or build off of. If I can choose texts that connect to contemporary issues, students can still find something to relate to as they explore perspectives different than their own. Sadly, the most engaging unit of the year will happen at the end of it, and it will provide a great deal of literary momentum that will then be lost to the idleness of summer, but I can see no other way to structure the unit in the overall curriculum.
Previous to this unit, students will have had a thorough education in the writing process as a heuristic tool. This assignment will be impossible without an approach that allows for experimental and exploratory writing. Students will have been given many experiences writing their way into their ideas and writing through confusion. They will have a thorough understanding of writing as a recursive and exploratory process. This will allow the students the freedom to write a narrative that is difficult for them and almost impossible to conceive entirely before the writing process begins. In other words, this kind of writing is impossible to do in a linear form of brainstorm → outline → draft → revise → proofread and submit. Students do not use writing here to translate their thinking onto paper, but instead to discover their thinking. The writing process itself will play an active role in constructing the literary voice of their paper.